When Evil Wins

Matthew 14

January 14

What do you do when tragedy strikes? How do you respond when it looks like evil has triumphed? How do you handle great loss?

In Matthew 14 we get to see how Jesus reacted. He had just heard about the fate of his relative and fellow worker, the man who had prepared the crowd for his own arrival – John the Baptist. John must have been such a blessing to Jesus. John was the one who knew and believed and spoke for Jesus first. He had performed the baptism in which the dove and the voice of God announced that Jesus was the loved son of God. I am sure that had been an incredible bonding moment for both of them. And now John was dead. Too young to die, he was just a few months older than Jesus. He still had more work to do. He had been so faithful.

To compound emotions, John’s death had been a violent, vengeful, plotted beheading at the hands of Herod the tetrarch (which means he was a ruler of one quarter of the region formerly ruled by his father Herod the Great). Herod the Great had been the one who had ordered the death of all baby boys 2 years old and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem, trying to assassinate young Jesus because the Magi had told him the star they were following signaled the birth of a new King of the Jews. Jesus had escaped the grasp of Herod the Great. But, now Herod’s son, with assistance from his twisted family tree, had murdered Jesus’ kin, John, who had boldly told Herod he had sinned by marrying his living brother’s wife. Evil had triumphed in this round. The righteous man John was dead while Herod, Herodias and her daughter lived and celebrated the death.

Jesus’ first reaction is to get away – alone. “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13). There may have been some tears. There may have even been some angry outbursts, perhaps. Or maybe not. We don’t know exactly. But he was wise in seeking a moment of stillness and quiet – just him and God. It doesn’t say he prayed – but we know Jesus. For example, see what he does next time he is able to be alone (Matthew 14:23).

The crowds aren’t sensitive to Jesus’ needs, but they know they need Jesus so they seek him out and disrupt his quiet time. Rather than rebuking them or running away, Jesus compassionately makes time for them and meets their needs. In fact, the next 24 hours are going to see some of the most amazing ministry and miracles Jesus has with the crowd and with his disciples. Many more sick are healed, thousands are fed with one small lunch, and Jesus and Peter walk on the water! And, between it all, Jesus gets in some more quiet time with his Father.

When faced with tragedy, loss, heartache and evil it is easy to be tempted to give up or give in. Jesus shows us how to give it to God (again and again) and continue the fight. Jesus knew the war was not over. This round went to Herod, but there was more to prepare for. There would be more battles. There would be more sick, hurting, hungry, and scared to care for. The victor has not yet been crowned. We look forward to that day! Until then, give it to God and continue the fight.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What loss have you faced? During your lifetime when has it looked like evil has won a round? What was your first response? Were you able to get back in the game? Do you benefit from quiet alone time with God? If so, how? If not, what’s missing?
  2. Jesus invited Peter to get out of the safe boat and come join Jesus ON the water in the middle of the lake in the middle of the night. And Peter got out of the boat! What would you have done? What would Peter have missed if he had stayed in the boat? Can you think of a time you courageously tried something new for Jesus? What could you do with Jesus if you were willing to step out of the boat?
  3. Peter was walking on the water with Jesus!! He began to sink when he saw the wind and was afraid. What fears are you sinking in? What could you do with Jesus if fears didn’t hold you down? How can you keep your eyes on Jesus instead of on your fears?
  4. Jesus rescued Peter and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” What tone of voice do you think Jesus used? How do your own doubts affect your relationship with Jesus? Did John the Baptist ever doubt? What did he do? What evidence can you find to counter your doubts?

Overcome

Revelation 2

To him who OVERCOMES
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”  Revelation 2:7
One of the phrases I would like you all to notice and underline when it repeats is this, “To him who overcomes”. This phrase refers to specific obstacles in Revelation 2 however this phrase could mean any obstacle in the way of your relationship with God. If you overcome your greatest fears and struggles and rely on Jesus, your relationship with God will thrive.
Jesse Allen

A Spirit of Boldness

ACTS 8

Acts 8 4 (2)

There are many valuable lessons to be learned from Acts 8. Here are two that stood out to me:

1. Go forward in a spirit of boldness, not one of fear and timidity. If you know me well, you know I LOVE the movie The Princess Bride. (Yes, I realize this movie is now a classic!) Spoiler alerts ahead! If you have ever seen the movie, you will recall the scene where Wesley is leading Buttercup into the Fire Swamp and Buttercup fearfully exclaims to Wesley, “We’ll never survive” and Wesley replies to her, “Nonsense. You’re only saying never because no one ever has.” True to Buttercup’s fears, they encounter the widely known dangers of the Fire Swamp: fire, quicksand and R.O.U.S.’s (Rodents of Unusual Size). In reading Acts 8, especially on the heels of Stephen’s stoning that we read about in chapter 7, one might imagine an atmosphere of fear and timidity could have easily festered in the Christian community. In Acts 8:1 we read about a great persecution that began against the church. We read of Saul who was waging war against the Christ followers, going from house to house, dragging off men and women and putting them in prison. One might think Christians might have chosen to go underground and keep a low profile. As we continue reading the chapter, we find just the opposite to be true. Christians were scattered about because of this persecution, but we read in verse 4 that they continued to preach the word. In verse 5 we read how Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed Christ. This wasn’t a clandestine type of preaching, his bold proclamation of the gospel was also accompanied by miraculous wonders such as healings and driving out of demons.

In John 15:20 Jesus tells us, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” We are not promised a trouble-free life. Jesus assures us this life will bring us trouble and persecution if we follow him. What should our response be to persecution? Do we shrink back and try to keep a low profile? Or do we move forward with boldness like Wesley and Buttercup in spite of our fears? 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Jesus assures us we will have trouble in this life, but we are never ever alone. He reminds us of this in John 16:33 when he tells us, “I have told you these things, to that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


2.  Be sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Your Christian life is unscripted. In many ways, it is a wild adventure. We have the most excellent advantage of knowing how the story ends and that the good guys do win after all, but there will be many plot twists in between. In verses 25-40, we read about how an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” There Philip sees an Ethiopian eunuch and we read in verse 29, “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot’.” We continue reading that Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch and the eunuch declares his belief that Jesus is the son of God and gets baptized by Philip. We later read that Philip gets snatched away by the Spirit to Azotus and preaches the gospel in all the cities on his way to Caesarea. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit means we will lead life unscripted and we will often be pushed out of our comfort zones. What is the Holy Spirit stirring you to do? Be sensitive, be open and be bold. A grand adventure awaits…

-Kristy Cisneros

God’s Peace

Phil 4 7

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I find myself to be a world champion worrier. This skill started when I was a child: storms terrified me! I soon learned as long as I could hear the airplanes (I lived under a flight path!), everything was ok. As I grew up, my fears changed: what kind of job would I have? Would I find a good husband? (I did!) And now, I worry about my sons. Are they safe, will they find a good spouse, and will they continue to follow God?

I finally made the decision to turn my fears over to God. Many times, the Bible tells us God is on our side. He knows what is going to happen: both good and bad, he is in control no matter what! I am still unsure and often frightened, because I’m human. As long as I don’t stay in the place of me taking control. I need to move towards God and give Him the control, as it should be. Take a moment to examine a place where your worries are preventing God from being in control. Give God the control and leave it with Him.

-Susan Johnson

Stand Up For Christ

psalm 118 6

So far this week, we have discussed topics on having a Christ-centered life, God’s Will vs. our will, why it’s important to worship through singing, and that we all have a purpose. Today we will be discussing the importance of standing up for Christ.

In today’s society, topics such as religion and Christianity are shunned. Some people avoid speaking on the topics and others try to intimidate or harass those who do. This is known as persecution. Christians are being persecuted all over the world. Some even to the point of abuse or death. Christians are being persecuted for worshiping God, believing in Jesus Christ, reading the Bible, or even speaking or practicing the teaching of Christianity.

Do you ever feel uncomfortable mentioning topics about Christianity? Do you feel like you will be in trouble or scrutinized? Those are feelings and thoughts of fear.

“The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?” -Psalm 118:6

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me,

And delivered me from all my fears.”

-Psalm 34:4

We should not let fear overcome us. We should put our faith in God and He will take care of us. He will definitely take care of us if we are glorifying Him, sharing His Word, and standing up for His Son, Jesus Christ. God wants us to stand firm in our faith and proclaim the message of the Gospel.

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” -John 14:6

By proclaiming the Gospel message and sharing our faith we are standing up for Christ. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through Him. We need Jesus in our lives. We need to follow Him. We need Him as our friend.

We need to stand up for Him. I love the hymn titled “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”

The first verse sings “Stand Up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss; From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.”

The last verse ends with “To him that overcometh A crown of life shall be; He with the King of glory Shall reign eternally.”

Do you want to reign and live with Jesus Christ eternally in the Kingdom of God? I know I sure do!

We need to stand up for Christ now, so we can stand with Christ in His Father’s Kingdom which will be established on earth.

Today I encourage you to not fret, worry, or live in fear. God is for us. Jesus Christ died for us. And now we need to live for Him! Share the Gospel message, live a life that represents Jesus, and stand up for Christ!

-Brenan Dominguez
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